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NEW STUDY: Vitamins found ineffective against heart disease or cancer, experts find

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
November 12th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

According to a new study, vitamins voraciously consumed by many Americans may actually have very little medical benefit. Vitamins don't prevent heart disease or cancer - the two leading killers of Americans, experts concluded this week.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - While half the U.S. population pops vitamins in order to live longer, healthier lives, a highly extensive study may prove them to be a waste of time when it comes to preventing fatal diseases.

A team at the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research in Portland, Oregon is being used to update recommendations by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.

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Researchers say that the new findings are likely to add to confusion over the benefits of vitamins. "A healthy balanced diet is critical for good health, and that's probably the most important way that we get the nutrients that are essential," Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, a heart disease specialist at the University of California San Francisco says.

A member of the Task Force, Bibbins-Domingo adds that the task force "reviewed 24 studies of individual vitamins, minerals, or functional nutrient pairs. Across all the supplements studied, there was no evidence of beneficial effects on cardiovascular disease, cancer, or all-cause mortality."

The study doesn't mean that people don't need nutrients; It's just that a multivitamin might not be the best way to get them.

However - there are two clear exceptions. Beta-carotene can raise the risk of lung cancer in smokers, and vitamin E does no good at all in preventing cancer or heart disease, as reported in the Annals of Internal Medicine. "The USPSTF concludes with moderate certainty that the net benefit of vitamin E supplementation is zero," they wrote.

Better still, vitamins can help pregnant women ensure they have healthy babies. The benefits of folic acid is so evident that flour is supplemented with it.

The production of multivitamins are a multibillion-dollar industry in the United States. "Americans spend an estimated $11.8 billion each year on vitamin and mineral supplements," the researchers wrote. Study after study has returned mixed evidence. One of the exceptions are people with vitamin deficiencies.

Conducting a meta-analysis, pooling the evidence of many different studies, researchers say that evidence is clear that "fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fat-free and low-fat dairy products, and seafood may play a role in the prevention of cancer or cardiovascular disease," the researchers wrote.

The American Heart Association agrees in its latest statement. "We recommend that healthy people get adequate nutrients by eating a variety of foods in moderation, rather than by taking supplements," the group says.

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